Even lawyers have to face up to it: gaining and retaining clients is no longer something purely done by the business development people within your firms. Lawyers increasingly need to improve their accessibility and outward-looking face to retain a competitive edge.
Personal networking, and the professional connections resulting from it, is an effective tool in achieving this. Effective networking starts with taking a good look at yourself: how do you come across to others? Is your face mostly blank? Do you frown? Or do you never look people in the eye? Whatever your look, chances are it is unlikely you smile a lot generally, and hardly ever when you come across strangers.
Smiling is the first thing to do on a daily basis. At yourself in the mirror, at the person next to you on the tube and at your colleagues. Don’t worry about those who suddenly see a change in you and may comment. First, it is great that you are being noticed. Second, and more importantly, positive alterations are for you, not for the cynics around you.
When smiling is part of your daily routine it is much easier and feels more authentic. This will make all the difference when you crack a smile when entering a room full of strangers.
So now you are at an event. Your face is open and smiling, thus making it easier for people to respond positively when approached by you. The latter can be daunting, but not if you know how to break the ice.
The first step is simple: walk up and be honest – “I just walked in on my own, do you know many people here?” Granted, this sounds a lot like dating. However, the good news is that when networking you do not need to convince anybody that you are worth spending ‘quality’ time with. All you need to do is to make a connection.
The second step involves further input from you. Remember, you want to connect, therefore you will have to do the work.
The answer to your first question may be yes or no – your response is all to do with your body language. Be attentive, make eye contact and show you are really interested. It is very complimentary and hard to resist reacting positively when a stranger is interested in hearing what you have to say.
Stay with it: listen carefully so that you can respond to what is being said. Then mention something you enjoy talking about. Sharing an interest, be it in a TV programme or fly-fishing, is a great second icebreaker.